FY 2017 Budget Request: DOD Basic Research Down 9%, Applied Research Down 3.6%

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Publication date: 
19 February 2016
Number: 
20

Although the Department of Defense’s overall spending on research, development, testing, and evaluation would grow 2.6 percent to $71.8 billion under the President’s fiscal year 2017 budget request, spending on the Science and Technology Program would decrease by 4.1 percent to $12.5 billion.

In his fiscal year 2017 budget submission to Congress, President Obama is requesting a 2.6 percent funding increase for Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation (RDT&E) conducted by the Department of Defense (DOD), raising the total to $71.8 billion. All of DOD’s voluminous budget materials can be found here.

In contrast to the requests for some other science and technology-focused agencies this cycle, the request for DOD does not rely on any new mandatory funding streams to support the increase. See this FYI for details on mandatory versus discretionary funding requests in the fiscal year 2017 budget.

However, despite the overall increase for RDT&E, the subaccounts focused on early stage research and development (budget categories 6.1 through 6.3, collectively the Science and Technology Program) would all receive less funding. The below tables summarize the proposed funding changes for DOD’s key science and technology accounts.

Table 1: President's FY17 request for DOD RDT&E

Agency / Account / Subaccount FY15
Actual
FY16
Enacted
FY17
Request
Change
FY16-17
DOD RDT&E 64,088.0 69,968.5 71,765.9 2.6%
Science & Technology 12,024.0 13,036.6 12,500.7 -4.1%
Basic Research (6.1) 2,213.5 2,309.2 2,101.8 -9.0%
Applied Research (6.2) 4,578.0 4,996.2 4,815.4 -3.6%
Advanced Technology Development (6.3) 5,232.5 5,731.2 5,583.5 -2.6%

* all figures are in millions of nominal U.S. dollars

Table 2: President's FY17 request for DOD Science & Technology by service

Agency / Account / Subaccount FY15
Actual
FY16
Enacted
FY17
Request
Change
FY16-17
Army (6.1 - 6.3 only) 2,501.0 2,689.3 2,266.6 -15.7%
Basic Research 447.9 469.1 428.9 -8.6%
University & Industry Research Centers 105.8 104.3 94.3 -9.6%
University Research Initiatives 79.1 72.6 69.2 -4.7%
Applied Research 964.1 1,092.9 907.6 -17.0%
Advanced Technology Development 1,089.1 1,127.3 930.1 -17.5%
Navy (6.1 - 6.3 only) 2,115.9 2,334.0 2,141.1 -8.3%
Basic Research 634.4 671.9 543.0 -19.2%
University Research Initiatives 129.3 146.2 101.7 -30.4%
Applied Research 855.9 965.9 861.2 -10.8%
Advanced Technology Development 625.6 696.2 737.0 5.9%
Air Force (6.1 - 6.3 only) 2,235.4 2,480.8 2,486.0 0.2%
Basic Research 538.6 530.3 500.0 -5.7%
University Research Initiatives 142.8 141.8 145.0 2.3%
Applied Research 1,090.4 1,240.1 1,260.2 1.6%
Advanced Technology Development 606.4 710.4 725.8 2.2%
DARPA (6.1 - 6.3 only) 2,759.3 2,796.7 2,899.0 3.7%
Basic Research 381.4 389.7 420.1 7.8%
Applied Research 1,136.8 1,163.4 1,246.3 7.1%
Advanced Technology Development 1,241.1 1,243.7 1,232.6 -0.9%

* all figures are in millions of nominal U.S. dollars

These changes will likely be discussed at an upcoming Feb. 24 House Armed Services Committee hearing focused on DOD’s Science and Technology Program, which will include witnesses from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Army, Navy, and Air Force.

This budget request comes at a time when DOD is increasingly concerned about erosion of U.S. technological superiority. The Department is advocating for development of a new generation of technologies to maintain the “offset” between the U.S. and its potential adversaries. Accordingly, DOD is ramping up its so-called "Third Offset" Strategy (the first two offsets having been nuclear weapons and precision-guided weapons/stealth technology, respectively).

Only $35 million dollars in funding are explicitly identified as supporting the Third Offset Strategy in the budget request. When asked about how much spending in the request can be considered as part of the strategy, DOD’s Chief Financial Officer Mike McCord stressed that it is difficult to provide an exact number, saying that “there is not a tag in our budget system that says this program is a third offset idea and this one is not or could not be.” Nevertheless, many of the activities funded by the RDT&E account will certainly be central to implementing the strategy in the coming years.

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